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THURS: County manager field narrowed to three, New Study explores pedestrian involved crashes+ More

Bernalillo County’s administrative headquarters in Downtown Albuquerque.
Roberto E. Rosales
/
City Desk ABQ
Bernalillo County’s administrative headquarters in Downtown Albuquerque.

County manager field narrowed to three - Rodd Cayton, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

A current county official and two West Coast executives are the last remaining candidates as Bernalillo County seeks its next manager.

Marcos Gonzales, Cindy Chavez and Joseph Lessard will be asked to make their cases for the job at public forums next week.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted to name those three as the top finalists for the job. The board earlier in the day discussed their qualifications and those of two other candidates.

County Manager Julie Morgas Baca is retiring June 30.

THE CANDIDATES

Gonzales, the county’s executive development officer, has been working in economic development since 2008 and joined the department in 2012, after working in state government. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

Lessard was city manager of Ashland, Oregon, for almost two years, ending in December, according to his resume. He was previously a senior planning director at Texas planning firm Knudson LP and assistant city manager of Austin, Texas. Lessard holds bachelor’s degrees in business administration and political science from Washington State University and a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University Bloomington.

Chavez sits on the Santa Clara County (California) Board of Supervisors and chairs the board of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Chavez was also director of Caltrain, a commuter rail line in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from San José State University.

LAUDATORY COMMENTS

“The search committee did not give us an easy job,” Commissioner Eric Olivas said. “We got a lot of good people in that list of five.”

Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada said the three final candidates each bring unique abilities that the county will need going forward and that each represents a unique, different type of leadership.

The process to this point has been marked by contention among commissioners about how to find a new manager. Olivas said that was absent toward the end.

“What I think is most exciting to me is we have consensus on this,” he said. “This is something that, in this process, has not been the norm. But everyone that is on this list of five, and absolutely the list of three, brings terrific qualities and qualifications.”

OTHER ACTIONS

Commissioners also voted to contribute $525,000 toward the construction of a new home for the city’s Brillante Early Learning Center. The center is New Mexico’s only museum-based STEM education center.

Commission Chair Barbara Baca said the center is a way to help people across the state learn about innovation. Commissioner Adriann Barboa praised the center’s “thoughtful, innovative approach.”

In other business, a study of possible groundwater contamination in the Carñuel area in the East Mountains is now planned, as commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Identifying what contaminants are in the area and where will help the county plan for addressing the issues, Olivas said after the meeting.

Also approved was a resolution finalizing the Local Government Coordinating Commission. The commission, formerly the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Government Commission, now includes Albuquerque Public Schools as a voting member. The school district had advisory seats on the prior commission.

Commissioners said that as representatives of the community’s young people, APS should have an equal say in matters that concern it, the county and the city of Albuquerque.

New research and dashboard details pedestrian and cyclist crashes in New Mexico – Daniel Montaño

A new study from the University of New Mexico shows that while pedestrians are involved in only 2% of traffic crashes, they represent 20% of all crash-related fatalities.

UNM’s Geospatial and Population Studies used data from the New Mexico Department of Transportation on motor-vehicle crashes that involved pedestrians and cyclists from 2018 through 2022.

Researchers then built two interactive databases where users can explore and compare data based on time and/or location of incident, the severity of the crash, demographic data, injury severity and more.

The data shows that even though only 22% of all pedestrian crashes occurred in dark conditions, they resulted in almost half of all fatalities, and that 15% of all pedestrians in crashes were under the influence of alcohol.

A little more than half of all cyclist and pedestrian crashes in the state happened in Bernalillo County, which is also where more than half of all fatalities occurred for both types of accidents.

David Jacobs, senior program manager with the UNM-GPS Traffic Research Unit, told the UNM Newsroom that he wanted to explore the data so the public can “better understand how to avoid being in a pedestrian or bicycle traffic crash”

For more information and a link to the dashboards find this story online at KUNM.org

Arizona man sold firearms to undercover FBI agent for mass shooting, indictment says Associated Press

A firearms dealer in Arizona sold weapons to an undercover federal agent he believed would help him carry out his plan for a mass shooting targeting minorities, an attack that he hoped would "incite a race war," according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Mark Adams Prieto was indicted Tuesday by the grand jury in Arizona on charges of firearms trafficking, transferring a firearm for use in a hate crime, and possession of an unregistered firearm.

Court records didn't list an attorney who could comment on Prieto's behalf. A lawyer who briefly represented Prieto after he was arrested last month in neighboring New Mexico didn't respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The indictment says the 58-year-old from Prescott, Arizona, recruited the undercover FBI agent and an informant at a gun show where Prieto was a vendor.

According to the indictment, Prieto told them he'd been thinking about carrying out a mass killing of minority groups for some time in order "to incite a race war" ahead of the presidential election in November. Prieto later identified a rap concert in Atlanta in mid-May for the attack, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says planning for the shooting began in January and took place over several months at gun shows around Arizona, including in Phoenix and Tucson. At the gun shows, the indictment alleges, Prieto sold two rifles to be used in the shooting to the FBI agent.

Prieto was arrested in New Mexico on May 14 — around the time of the Atlanta concert — while driving east from Arizona. Authorities said they found seven firearms inside his vehicle.

Following his arrest, court records show, a U.S. district judge in New Mexico ordered Prieto to remain in federal custody, saying the "seriousness of danger to the community is extreme" if he was to be released.

New Mexico officials tell lawmakers the state needs more money invested in water infrastructure - Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico 
The confluence of money and water appeared before a panel of New Mexico lawmakers who hold the purse strings of state government.

State officials said in order to strengthen the state’s water, lawmakers will need to invest more money in 2025.

But that applies not just to the basics, like requests to buy monitoring wells for a fuller picture of the hidden waters underground.

Aspromised, the governor is again seeking lawmakers’ approval to spend at least $500 million for the unprecedented project to act as a middleman in a new market for oil and gas wastewater, and the salty water from deep aquifers.

Rebecca Roose, the infrastructure advisor for the governor’s office, said a 2025 priority will be reintroducing a request in the 2025 session.

The promises of the project, called the Strategic Water Supply, range from ambitious to lofty.

Roose says the new endeavor will support New Mexico moving away from fossil fuels, make money for the state, develop clean energy jobs, and ease strain on freshwater sources.

“It’s critical that we figure out how to meet our economic development needs and advance our energy transition without further stressing our water resources,” Roose said.

Environmental and Indigenous groups haveraised objections to the proposal, saying that it uses public money to offer the oil and gas industry a solution to a rising problem of wastewater disposal, and is putting too much emphasis on creating a market for the water, before ensuring it can be safely cleaned, extracted or transported.

Pei Xu, a researcher at New Mexico State University, does work for the public-private Produced Water Research Consortium, which is investigating how to use oil and gas wastewater – called produced water – off of the oilfields.

Xu told the lawmakers that the public has asked for more research in two areas: the movement of contaminants through soil and groundwater, and the human health and environmental risk factors.

“These are our priority research areas, we just do not have the money to do it, but with your help, I think we can continue to do work in these areas,” Xu told lawmakers.

OIL AND GAS MONEY STILL FLOWING IN

Presentations before the interim Legislative Finance Committee earlier in the day showed that oil and gas extraction generated more than $15.2 billion for the state, funding government from schools to state agencies.

Even as revenues have quadrupled in the last five years, experts say it’s vital to establish more independence from oil and gas, to protect against the financial shocks during boom-and-bust cycles.

But the consequences of New Mexico’s production are not just financial. Hotter and drier weather due to our fossil fuel use and production is straining the whole system.

New Mexico’s rivers and aquifers are experiencing both increased demand from people, crops and ecosystems that rely on them while shrinking supplies from human and climate changes.

DEARTH OF DATA FOR AQUIFERS

There’s a lot about New Mexico’s aquifers that remain unknown, said Stacy Timmons, the associate director of hydrogeology at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

In order to characterize the major and minor aquifers of the state by 2037, the bureau would need $800,000 per year going forward, and an additional $1.25 million to hire personnel and buy software.

That would allow the state to drill 100 monitoring wells to better understand the shape, depth and amount of water underground – which is still unknown.

“$175 million is the concept that we have, it’s 12 years to get 100 wells and detailed information so we can more carefully plan and manage our groundwater resources,” Timmons said.

Timmons pointed out that the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is the only agency dedicated to research, unlike the New Mexico Environment Department or the New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department, which is also required to regulate industries.

FOCUS FOR 2025: STRATEGIC WATER SUPPLY

Much of the presentation focused on the Strategic Water Supply, aplan floated by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the 2024 session, that failed after abill substitution and a Hail Maryresurrection in the session’s last days.

Roose said the project would connect industry – like solar and wind manufacturing, for example – to sources of treated brackish and produced water.

The state would set aside the money and buy treated brackish or produced water from a water treatment company “once it meets certain water quality specifications” under a contract, she said.

There are currently no state treatment standards for either category of water.

Roose added that the state isn’t “getting in the business of buying or storing large volumes of water,” but acting as an intermediary.

She asked the rhetorical question of why the state would get itself involved.

“Simple reason for that is because then we as a state get to steer that newly available treated water resource to certain kinds of projects that are priorities for the state of New Mexico,” she said.

Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe) asked Roose how much the program is expected to cost.

Roose said the state will ask lawmakers for two rounds of $250 million over two years. However, she said the cost estimates could change this summer, after the results of an economic analysis are published.

“As we get further in the interim session, it very likely could change because we will have even more robust data,” Roose said.

Lawmakers expressed a range of support.

Rep. Susan Herrera (D-Embudo) said she supported more funding for aquifer data studies.

“We know we have some of the most beautiful, clean, deep aquifers in the state,” she said.
“But we really don’t know what’s happening with them, how fast they’re being depleted.”

Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) asked if the legislature should be more aggressive.

“Is it your sense that we should consider $1 billion plus, all the way up to $1.5 billion in a comprehensive potential water-focused investment as we look towards the next session?” he asked.

Roose replied that those numbers were within the ballpark.

“That really means more investments than the legislature and the state has made in recent years,” she said.

Sen. Pat Woods (R-Clovis) asked if the state government has already put forward the process for regulations around the Strategic Water Supply.

Roose said the state government was still in the rule-making process, which will continue through August.

Currently the rule would not allow for discharges outside of oilfields, but she said it would create a pathway for uses of produced water that would “complement the Strategic water supply.”

“It sounds like we need to put some more money towards water, so to speak,” Woods concluded.

Native American tribe is on a preservation mission as it celebrates trust status for ancestral lands - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

When the sprawling Alamo Ranch first went up for sale nearly a decade ago, it was advertised as a working cattle ranch with incredible wildlife habitat and superb potential for development and recreation not far from New Mexico's largest metropolitan area.

For Santa Ana Pueblo, it was so much more.

It was here on the mesas, along the cliffs and in the canyons northwest of Albuquerque where their ancestors once farmed and hunted. It was a key stop along a migration route that took the Tamayame — the Keres word for the people of Santa Ana — from Mesa Verde to the banks of the Rio Grande centuries ago.

The pueblo jumped at the chance to buy the ranch in 2016 and embarked on a yearslong process that culminated Wednesday with the U.S. government bringing a major portion of their ancestral lands into trust, protecting what is known in the Keres language as Tamaya Kwii Kee Nee Puu from future development and ensuring the preservation of culturally significant spots.

Past and present Santa Ana Pueblo leaders gathered with federal land managers to sign the documents. It was an emotional day in which memories, hugs and handshakes were shared.

"It's a good feeling to know that this is ours forever," former Gov. Joey Sanchez said of the land. "I think the vision that we have is to make it better than we got it."

Santa Ana Pueblo is just the latest tribe to acquire jurisdiction over ancestral lands as part of a growing movement in which Native American communities have been pushing to reclaim and restore their homelands.

Nationwide, nearly 1,172 square miles (3,035 square kilometers) have been put into trust for tribes since 2009 through thousands of approved transfers, according to the U.S. Interior Department. The agency said Wednesday it's reviewing another 960 applications that would cover more than 460 square miles (1,191 square kilometers).

The Santa Ana transfer is one of the largest in New Mexico. In 2021, the Obama administration placed 140 square miles (363 square kilometers) of land south of Albuquerque into trust for Isleta Pueblo after that tribe purchased what was known as the Comanche Ranch.

That property — like the Alamo Ranch purchased by Santa Ana Pueblo — had been used as a practice bombing range by the U.S. military during World War II. For Santa Ana, that meant spending even more money and more time to clean up leftover ordnance and address other environmental concerns.

The tribe also had to pay for a corrected survey of the ranch's boundaries after errors were discovered, and it worked with New Mexico's largest electric utility to assess rights of way for major transmission lines crossing the landscape.

Some tribal leaders said it was one thing after another, leading them to believe they might not see the transfer within their lifetimes.

Santa Ana Pueblo Gov. Myron Armijo was among those in 2016 who started conversations about buying the land. He said it was a priority for the pueblo that the transfer happen this year.

"I'm almost at a loss for words," Armijo said, hinting at the significance of the day.

While Santa Ana Pueblo now doubles in size, Armijo said it's more important that spiritual leaders and other tribal members have access to Kwii Kee Nee Puu for special hunts, to gather medicinal plants and to collect raw materials for making pottery and paints.

The pueblo's natural resources department has been busy building catchments to provide water for wildlife — an effort that already has seen dividends in terms of healthier populations of pronghorn antelope, deer, bear and even mountain lions.

Glenn Tenorio, a former pueblo governor, is part of a team that makes biannual flights over the land to monitor the wildlife.

"It's kind of like a bird's eye view, being the eagle up there soaring around and oh my gosh it is just amazing," he said, describing the places his ancestors called home.

Nathan Garcia, who also served as governor and is now a conservation officer with the pueblo, spent about eight months walking the entire boundary of Kwii Kee Nee Puu as part of the work to correct the survey. He often shares stories about his trek with his children and coworkers so they can think about their own connections to the landscape.

"Knowledge is powerful, as they say, and how you use it. But also it tells a story about what the land is all about," he said. "And the more you know about it, then the more significant it becomes to you."

Arizona man sold firearms to undercover FBI agent for mass shooting, indictment says - Associated Press

A firearms dealer in Arizona sold weapons to an undercover federal agent he believed would help him carry out his plan for a mass shooting targeting minorities, an attack that he hoped would "incite a race war," according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Mark Adams Prieto was indicted Tuesday by the grand jury in Arizona on charges of firearms trafficking, transferring a firearm for use in a hate crime, and possession of an unregistered firearm.

Court records didn't list an attorney who could comment on Prieto's behalf. A lawyer who briefly represented Prieto after he was arrested last month in neighboring New Mexico didn't respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The indictment says the 58-year-old from Prescott, Arizona, recruited the undercover FBI agent and an informant at a gun show where Prieto was a vendor.

According to the indictment, Prieto told them he'd been thinking about carrying out a mass killing of minority groups for some time in order "to incite a race war" ahead of the presidential election in November. Prieto later identified a rap concert in Atlanta in mid-May for the attack, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says planning for the shooting began in January and took place over several months at gun shows around Arizona, including in Phoenix and Tucson. At the gun shows, the indictment alleges, Prieto sold two rifles to be used in the shooting to the FBI agent.

Prieto was arrested in New Mexico on May 14 — around the time of the Atlanta concert — while driving east from Arizona. Authorities said they found seven firearms inside his vehicle.

Following his arrest, court records show, a U.S. district judge in New Mexico ordered Prieto to remain in federal custody, saying the "seriousness of danger to the community is extreme" if he was to be released.